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Hichilema exposes Zim govt on Kariba usage



WHILE Energy and Power Development minister Soda Zhemu told Parliament that Zimbabwean officials engaged their Zambian counterparts to enable ZESA to continue generating power from Kariba Dam despite exhausting its yearly quota, Zambia’s president Hakainde Hichilema, has expressed frustration over Harare’s failure to ensure the sustainable use of the shared resource.


Hichilema revealed he would engage President Emmerson Mnangagwa over the matter.

The Zambian leader said this while addressing media during the tour to assess Kariba Dam and water levels last Sunday.

“We will be engaging with our Zimbabwean counterparts to optimise and effectively utilise the reservoir and to improve compliance levels in water management,” he said.

He later tweeted that the shared resource needed better manangement while expressing disappointment that Zimbabwe was overusing water from the dam.

“Many factors have contributed to our current state of low electricity generation but most importantly systems and information sharing, including optimal use of this shared resource are being largely ignored. We will engage all stakeholders about this,” tweeted Hichilema.

After the tour, Hichilema told a Press briefing he would engage Mnangagwa and his cabinet on how best to manage the resource to avert a catastrophe.

“For management, you have informed your boards, Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) board, Zesco Board, for the south side (Zimbabwe) the board there (Zesa board), then the council of ministers. I take it logically that the cabinets of the two countries need a proper and full briefing on this situation,” he said.

Zimbabwe was between a rock and a hard place after the ZRA ordered it to stop electricity generation given the rising public anger over extended power cuts at a time the country is heading for elections. The government chose to continue generating electricity while risking collapsing the system at Kariba.

Addressing Parliament in December after being summoned to speak on the energy situation in Zimbabawe, Zhemu said Zimbabwe and Zambia had agreed that Harare should continue generating power from Kariba.

Zhemu said stopping electricity generation would have crippled the country.

“The shutdown of the power plant would have had the following impacts: about 70% of the country’s power supply would have been lost as a result of shutting down the power station. The network stabilisation would also have been disturbed which ordinarily would be done through Kariba Power Station,” he said.

“The ministry engaged its counterparts in Zambia through meetings which were held at board level and also there was a recommendation from the board to allow the two utilities to engage. It was through those engagements that the council of ministers had an extraordinary meeting to allow ZPC to continue generating from Kariba Power Station, but this time at a reduced capacity of between 250 to 300 megawatts. This effectively resulted in loss of about 300 megawatts capacity on our grid, increasing our power deficit to over 500 megawatts.”

Zhemu added that Zimbabwe was using Zambia’s water ration to generate power, painting a picture of mutual understanding on power generation on the depleting Kariba.

“The other question was: why Zescom is allowed to generate electricity currently at 800 megawatts, whilst Zesa has been asked to reduce to 300MW. From the explanation that I gave, the total water allocation which was provided for in 2022 was 45 billion cubic metres of which 22.5 was the allocation for Zimbabwe. We exhausted our water allocation, until ZPC was then ordered by ZRA to suspend generation. We had to get the current generation after extensive negotiations with Zesco. As we speak, to be very honest, we are actually using their allocation of water to generate the 300MW that we are obtaining from Kariba Power Station,” said Zhemu.

Both countries have been plunged into load shedding as the water levels have receded overtime due to climate change and droughts.

Lake Kariba is designed to operate between levels 475.50 metres and 488.50 metres (with 0.70m freeboard) for hydropower generation. It is currently generating between 413MW and 750MW on six units.

The Lake level has however started increasing in the past few days due to an increase in local rainfall activity on and around the lake, closing the period under review at 475.78m (2% usable storage) on 11th January 2023, compared to 478.33m (19.73% usable storage) recorded on the same date last year.

Zimbabwe was warned of depreciating water levels at the dam by the ZRA  in May 2022 and ordered to stop electricity generation production in November after having depleted their water ration for 2022.

The ZRA is a bi-national organisation mandated by the governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe to sustainably harness the hydropower potential offered by the trans-boundary waters of the Zambezi River.

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